Every year, over 2,900 people experience a fire related to their clothes dryer. These incidents are estimated to cause 5 deaths, 100 injuries, over $35 million in property damage annually. However, there are a few easy steps you can take to reduce risk. By keeping your dryer vent free of dust, lint, and other flammable materials, you can help keep your family and home safe.
Why Do You Need to Clean The Dryer Vent?
Every modern clothes dryer comes with a built-in lint screen, which is designed to help stop lint and dust from getting into the vent. However, keeping the lint screen clean in itself isn't your only responsibility.
Small pieces of lint, which includes dirt, dust, and clothing material, can pass through the lint screen and get into the dryer vent where it will buildup overtime. Due to the high heat levels and potential sparks associated with a dryer's normal cycle, this buildup poses a risk and it can catch flame if left uncleaned.
In addition to causing a safety threat, a clogged dryer vent can also shorten the life and lower the efficiency of your dryer, so there are many reasons to work it into your regular chores.
Signs Your Vent Needs Cleaning
When you're outside, you may notice lint building up around the exit vent or on the ground underneath it. This is a sign that the hose itself is getting filled up with lint. You should start cleaning your dryer vent often enough that this buildup and discharge never occurs to begin with.
Other signs include clothes taking longer to dry or clothes that have a burning smell or other odor on them when they leave the dryer. If your laundry room gets excessively hot, that's also a sign that the vent is clogged and needs cleaning.
How Often Do You Need to Clean The Dryer Vent?
The lint screen should be checked before and after each cycle, but the vent itself needs to be cleaned at least once a year. The more often you use your dryer, the more often you should check and clean the vent. Think about the number of loads you do and also the type of clothing you are putting into your dryer.
Clothing that is more prone to shedding and materials that are more flammable may call for a more frequent cleaning. Moreover, consider that the longer you go between cleaning the dryer vent, the more these materials are able to buildup and the more dangerous the risk of fire becomes.
Also, the longer you wait to clean out the vent, the further up these materials are able to work themselves into the vent, which makes the cleaning process more difficult and time-consuming when you do get around to it.
For these reasons, while once a year should be considered a bare minimum, opt for 2-4 times a year for the best results. Cleaning the vent once a season, or at least at the beginning and end of winter (when the dryer sees the most usage) is a best practice to help keep your family safe.
How to Clean Your Dryer Vent Yourself
Fortunately, if you keep up with the regular maintenance for your dryer, keeping the vent clean won't be difficult to do on your own. Keeping the lint screen clean will be the first step in preventing lint from accumulating in the vent in the first place, but when it comes time to clean out the vent, follow these steps.
- Head outside and locate the output for your dryer, which is where the vent directs the excess air coming from the dryer.
- Remove the cover so that you have easy access to the vent tube.
- Head back inside your laundry room and move the dryer away from the wall. Electric dryers easily unplug to give you access while natural gas dryers require extra care to ensure you don't damage or disconnect the gas line.
- With the dryer moved from the wall, unhook any clamps or rings attaching the dryer to the vent. Now you have was access to both the inside and outside ends of the vent.
- Use an extendable brush to get into the vent tube and clean out lint. You can purchase a DIY kit with the tools you need to clean the vent properly.
- If your dryer vent has not been cleaned in some time, you will likely be amazed at the amount of lint that is excavated from it.
When to Bring In a Professional
If you have a natural gas dryer, it's worth calling in a professional who can do the job right without risking a damaged or disconnected gas line. And, even if you have an electric dryer, sometimes a do-it-yourself kit just can't compare to the work of a professional.
Professionals will come into the home and be able to quickly and effectively clean out the vent, making sure to remove every last piece of lint that could obstruct the flow of air and lead to a fire. They may use high-powered suction tools and other equipment.
This equipment can prove extremely time-saving and beneficial, particularly if your dryer is located in an internal room, the basement level, or on a higher level. In these instances the vent will be long and may have a number of curves, which could prevent you from properly cleaning it with a DIY kit.
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